SMM News: on Thursday, local time, EU leaders agreed to extend the existing economic sanctions against Russia until the end of January 2020, maintaining a "high pressure" on the local economy. But Mr Putin's response has been as tough as ever.
EU spokesman Oman (Preben Aman) said that due to Russia's failure to effectively implement the Minsk Agreement, the EU unanimously agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months. The Minsk Agreement, which refers to the ceasefire agreement reached between the Ukrainian government and the Donbaz region in the east in 2014, has stalled and many of its provisions have so far failed to be effectively implemented.
According to a statement issued by the European Council on the same day, specific sanctions include a ban on the import of goods from Crimea and Sevastopol, and a ban on investment in Crimea and Sevastopol, including the prohibition of EU citizens and businesses from buying properties or entities in Crimea and the provision of financing or related services to Crimean companies.
The European Union will also extend another sanctions banning business with Crimea for a year on Thursday until June 2020.
EU sanctions against Russia, which cover energy, defence and finance, were scheduled to expire at the end of July. The European Union will formally announce an extension of sanctions in the next few days.
Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded during the annual Live question and answer session that EU sanctions had cost Russia $50 billion over the past five years, but the EU itself had lost $240 billion.
Putin stressed that Russia has not and will not accede to the demands of other countries because of sanctions, such as returning Crimea to Ukraine. He also said that the sanctions have instead contributed to the vigorous development of domestic traffic engineering and agriculture.
In March this year, an analysis predicted that EU sanctions against Russia would reduce the Russian economy by 6 percent.
In March 2014, the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia on the grounds of "illegal annexation" of Crimea and Sevastopol. In July of the same year, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, most of them Dutch. Subsequently, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Ukraine, Belgium, Australia set up an international joint investigation team determined that Flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made beech air-to-air missile system. The incident has further intensified the conflict between the European Union and Russia.
On the 19th, the investigation team announced the issue of arrest warrants for three Russians and one Ukrainian. The Russian Foreign Ministry then issued a statement protesting the allegations, saying Ukraine had falsified evidence.
Over the past five years, clashes between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine have killed more than 3300 civilians and injured 9000 others, according to data given by the United Nations.
The European Union is also concerned about Russia's move to simplify the procedures for citizens in eastern Ukraine to apply for Russian protection permits. Neighboring Poland and Lithuania have called on the European Union to step up penalties against Russia for the act. But any new EU sanctions would need to be agreed upon by the leaders of the 28 member states. At present, a number of countries, including Italy, Germany and France, have expressed opposition. Poland and Lithuania are members of the European Union, and the marathon talks on Ukraine's entry into the European Union are far from over.
However, EU leaders said on the 20th that Russia's above-mentioned measures will undermine the peace process, and the EU is ready to take further action against it, including refusing to recognize the Russian passport issued in Wudong.
In addition, EU leaders also urged Russia in a joint statement to unconditionally release the 24 Ukrainian sailors still in custody. Last year, Russia and Ukraine clashed by force in the Strait of Ketch, and 24 Ukrainian sailors have been arrested by Russia since then.
Putin responded that the arrest of sailors was part of the conflict in the Strait of Ketch and could not be resolved alone. "before we solve these problems, we need to think about how to deal with the fate of the people we care about, such as Russians who have similar experiences in Ukraine." Putin said on the line at the scene.
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